The Ancient Cities of Thailand 2011
All travel reports are translated electronically although minor improvements are sometimes made.
Ancient Cities of Thailand 2011
The ancient cities of Thailand are the former capitals of Siam, where you can see the antique stupas and temples left behind by the ancient rulers. It was an amazing experience that took us many days, because I wanted to see everything thoroughly, and even the floods didn’t stop me. The ancient capitals of Siam are Ayutthaya and Sukhotai, but I decided to be very accurate, and that’s why we went to Si Satchanalai too. On a bike and motorbike we saw everything we could, and it was one of my most successful adventures.
During my trip I managed to see all the three Ancient Cities:
- Si Satchanalai
In addition, I have included a number of practical tips and descriptions of transportation from place to place in this report.
(Very accurate description of ancient Ayuttha and the best ruins)
Ayuthaya was founded in 1350 by King U Thong and was one of the most populous cities in the world at the time. Ayuthaya was built at the intersection of three rivers (Mae Nam Lopburi, Chao Phraya and Pa Sak) by what a magnificent, antique town was built entirely on the island. Strategically it was a great solution as the rivers were a natural barrier against attacks on the city. Unfortunately, under the pressure of the Burmese army, Ayuthaya fell in 1767 and the Siamese began to rebuild their power near present-day Bangkok.
Today’s “Historic Park of Siam” exemplifies the enormous and still magnificent ruins of temples and statues dating back to around 700-400 years. Ayutthaya, today one of the most important cultural tourist attractions in Thailand, was the second capital of the ancient Siamese, after Sukhothai.
After arriving at the bus station in Ayutthai finding a room was not a problem as the tourist center is only a few minutes from the train station and a short moto ride from the temples. For a double room with private bathroom I paid only 150 bhat per night for us three and for a moped for a day only 200 bhat. For 3 days, with our own transport, we visited Ayutthaya very thoroughly and it was a great time. Tickets can be bought at any temple for 30-50 bhat but it is more profitable to buy one for 220 bhat.
Underneath there is a brief description of each of the temples that we saw during some wonderful days in Ayutthai. Fortunately, there are tall, heavily branched trees in the grounds of each facility that protect against the helpless sun. First, we went to two interesting and famous ruins that lie next to each other. The first is Wat Maha That , which is a typical, distinctive temple complex, showing the traditional architecture of the ancient Ayutthai. It was probably built around 1370-1390. In Wat Maha Tat, there are many carved stupas, chapels with Buddha statues and many of the headless statues depicting him. Beneath the shadows of the trees and their roots, there are several characteristic objects. Take a 46-meter carved chedi or bell tower symbolizing the relics of Buddhism and the symbol of the king. Another thing is the large statue of Buddha wrapped in orange cloth and surrounded by statues of headless Buddha. However, the most distinctive feature here is the head of Buddha placed in the branches of the tree, which gives a very good effect. Besides, the Wat Maha Tat is full of chedi-shaped chedi (towers of Angkor) built in the Khmer style.
Then after the moped we reached Wat Ratchaburana . This is another wonderful, well-restored complex of temple ruins. It was built in 1424 and is also a showcase of Khmer chedi and Sukhotai style columns. This temple at first sight is nothing special because first you see only broken columns, a Buddha statue without a head and rectangular walls without a roof. Only after the passage of this object appeared two high and richly carved chedi (tall towers). I also recommend the entrance to the very top where from the very narrow and high corridors is the view of the surroundings and where there are paintings on the walls. Wat Ratchaburana is, in my opinion, a time-consuming object to see many wonderful details such as numerous statues and parts of Buddha statues and elaborately carved sculptures on numerous prang and chedi.
Then we jumped on the motorbike through a large green area, cut by streams and overgrown with greenery. Along the way we passed many brick stacks built many centuries back, until we reached the place where there were some beautiful temple complexes. Especially this corner of Ayutthai is very well known, due to the well-preserved ruins, the palace, the bazaar and rides on colorfully decorated elephants.
The first object was the temple Wat Phra Ram , built in a classic style for Ayutthai, with high, chedi and prang (chedi) towers. It was built in 1369 and then expanded in the 15th century to the present size. Today, unfortunately, we did not survive as much detail as we would like but an attentive tourist is still able to imagine the splendor of this place on the ruins. In Wat Phra Ram you can also step up the steep and worn stairs to the top of one of the chedi to observe the surroundings of the ancient city.
Then we went to the Elephant Palace , which consisted of several farmsteads under the trees. From here, all dressed, painted elephants with tourists on their backs. Being in this place, they can not be seen because they were still circling between temples and ponds. 10 minutes of walking costs 500 bhat (about £ 10). I think the place itself does not need to be seen because it is a regular stall where the tourists get scared. Much nicer are the elephants walking on the street and the interested Elephant Village, which I will discuss later.
Right next to the residence is Khun Paen Residence or small wooden palace, set on the ball. Inside there are several chambers with carved doors and plants. I think, however, that the biggest advantage of this conical roof house and built entirely from teakwood is the constant view of the beautiful countryside. The residence itself is of course beautiful, but the view of the parades of painted elephants against the background of ancient temples with elements of Khmer style obscures the house itself.
Then we went through the alley of trees and stuck out of the grass, crossed the bridge overlooking ponds surrounded by greenery and reached the Phra Mongkhon Bophit Bazaar. This is a very pleasant place where you can eat cheap soup with suspect meat and some other mysterious dishes. Next to it is a bazaar with toys, hats, various souvenirs and dried fruits. This place also gives you the opportunity to escape from the heat and rain because it is all covered with a flower. Outside is one of the few swimming pools where fish and turtles swim and where there are trees wrapped in prayer flags. The turtle-covered turf is another wonderful, secluded place to relax.
Next to it is a modern temple in comparison with the ruins around, called Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit .This property is built in the style of many traditional architectures in Bangkok . I mean red roofs of several levels with golden ornaments and gold hooks upstairs, and tall, white pillars. Inside is the largest bronze Buddha in Thailand, but painted in golden color for a better effect. Other things that attract attention are Buddha’s head on pedestals carved in different styles. They have irregularly imprinted gold stickers, which is a symbol of fidelity to practicing the Thai. The Ayutthaya temples dating back to the Ayutthaya period are considered as the historical treasure of Thailand, while the temple of Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit is just another place of worship where the faithful pray, bring gifts and lotus flowers.
Next to one of the largest and most popular attractions of Ayutthai is Wat Phra Si Sanphet .
Its characteristic point is the high and richly carved, three great columns (chedi), which are one of the largest survivors to date in Ayutthai. Once there was a 16m gold-plated Buddha, but the Burmese army smashed it into small pieces during the invasion of this magnificent city. In Si Sanphet, there are also many other smaller bell-shaped towers (chedi, prang). They are also interesting, but unfortunately we already see the burden of time because not all are complete. Some have no toes, others fall out of the brick and there are also those that lie down on the ground. Among the smaller avenues of chedi, other parts of the ruins of the old city are emerging, including some incomplete Buddha statues. The whole complex of the temple is worth exploring, although knowing the history of this object I wonder how it would look if the Burmans did not equate certain objects with the earth.
Then we got on our moped and drove a short piece until we got to the next few objects. First it was Wat Tammikarat or rather what was left of it. In general, in 2011 it was just a brick wall with several brick pillars and a Buddha statue inside. It was another interesting object that required a moment of reflection, especially since the pillars of the centuries had roofs on the tops. Next to it is a broken stupa covered with yellow material and surrounded by sculptures of lions, some of which are still whole. Practically in the same area is a small temple, which is an active place of worship and an interesting statue of Buddha head emerging from a lotus flower. All this, very secluded place is surrounded by greenery and small fountains.Monks are also nearby, giving them a chance to observe their rituals.
Nearby is also the Monument of King U-Thong , who made a small impression on me.
With Wat Tammikarat it started to rain, it was dark and the battery was drained from the camera. So it was a clear signal that it was time to return to the hotel. So far the stay in Ayutthai was great and I felt we saw beautiful sights. I am sure it will be worth it in the long run, especially since I have already passed most of Asia.
The next day I wanted to finally see the famous Buddha, so we immediately went to Wat Lokayasutharam .There was an enormous temple in this place, but today there was only a brick terrain almost leveled with earth and one high chedi in a terrible state. Undoubtedly the largest and at the same time the only attraction of this place is the huge, lying Buddha, 37 meters long and 8 meters high. Its head lies on the lotus flower and the feet are in the shape of an even rectangle to show the equilibrium of the converging fingers of the Buddha. This building is an absolute colossus dressed in orange robes and makes a HUGE impression. To be exact, it is not a lying Buddha but a Buddha in the final stage of the nirvana. Still, most western tourists are defined as lying or sleeping Buddha, which is not true. According to Buddhism, the Buddha does not sleep, but only meditates, and through his spiritual perfection has control over everything. In any case, it is a magnificent building built entirely of bricks and cement, dating back to the middle ages of the ancient Ayutthai existence. As a curiosity I will add that there are other “lying” Buddhas that I have seen quite recently. One of them is located in the temple of Wat Pho in Bangkok and is larger than that in Ayutthai, and the largest in this position I’ve ever seen is located in Bago, Burma , where I have been several times.
After a wonderful “lying” Buddha we went outside the island because some wonderful sacred buildings are also located outside. We had a little ride around the island and I admit that we drove it all over. On the way it was nice because we had our own transport and the wind was an escape from the heat. We also went to fruit, coconuts and dinner. Every time it was beautiful, adventure and very cheap.
The next wonderful thing we saw was quite modern compared to the ruins of the temple and we came here only by mistake. Still it was a very nice mistake because we saw Wat Salapoon Worawiham . No guide mentioned this temple and it is not on all maps but I would recommend it. This temple is not an ancient ruin but a typical show of Thai architecture. It is a white building based on pillars and finished with red roofs of several floors. There are also red gold windows, golden Buddha statues in the middle, and golden stupas in the sun. I think the oldest, ancient objects in this temple are the bell-shaped chedi, which I saw earlier in the other ruins. Wat Salapoon Worawiham is a beautiful, pleasant and secluded place that I would heartily recommend.
To the next facility I had to go a little further but it was worth it as I felt like in Bagan , where I was quite recently. It was because of a huge pagoda named Wat Phu Khao Thong . It was built by King Maresuan in 1387 and represents the Golden Summit. This stupa is more than 80 meters high and you can climb the stairs to the middle and follow the path from the next floor. In 1569 the Burmese king Hongsawadi won Ayutthaya and in honor of victory he built a huge chedi in the traditional Burmese style. When Ayutthaya gained independence in 1584, the same pagoda was converted to Thai style according to the orders of King Maresuan. In my opinion, this did not produce the intended results, as it still looks to the Burmese. Of course, this pagoda is huge and very massive and climbing up to it or even taking a walk around takes some time. I also recommend the view of palm trees and rice fields and if somebody had a poor temple, there are also some other temples nearby. I think the photos will always give you the best size of this pagoda though I like to recommend my gallery from Burma .
On the way to this temple, on the marble, elevated square there is a very impressive Monument to King Maresuna on horseback. The whole area is obviously a good opportunity for cheap shopping.
Then we had to go a bit and in the meantime we also stopped for a very nice meal under the palm leaf. In the end, however, we reached Wat Na Phra Men , another temple on our list. This is not an ancient ruin but a typical Thai temple architecture. It is another building based on white pillars, covered with red, several-storey roof and surrounded by exotic vegetation. Inside there is a large statue of Buddha, many other religious statues and a place with incense. You should also pay attention to the chapel on the right side of the temple and the large sitting Buddha in the middle. All this place is always full of flowers, candles and incense sticks. Wat Na Phra Men Temple is an active place of religious ceremonies, I think worth a stop for about half an hour. Besides, each of the temples is very secluded and pleasant, which makes it possible to spend more time here, just to stare at exotic trees and flowers and enjoy the silence.
Then we had to go even bigger on our moped because we got to one of the most beautiful ruins in my opinion, Wat Chaiwatthanaram . This temple was built in 1630 near the Chao Phraya River and was built in Khmer style, which was very popular at the time. The central point is a 35 meter chedi or carved tower in Khmer style and around it there are four other prang (also carved towers but smaller). The whole is surrounded by eight chedi-style chapels, which are connected by one way. In some chapels there are monuments of Buddha and incomplete paintings that depict scenes from Buddha’s life. The magnificent high chapels are connected by one way, which is decorated by 120 monuments of Buddha, but unfortunately without heads. Once many of the monuments and walls were covered with gold, but when the Burmese army had ransomed Ayutthaya in 1767, many valuable monuments were stolen, including the heads of the Buddha. Although Wat Chaiwatthanaram is far away from the tourist center, I think the trip to this temple should be compulsory. It is a huge, high-rise building on a large riverbank. I tried to imagine what life was like in the glory days of Ayutthai, with people, the king, the army, and with the boats at the shore and the fresh catch.
Then we had to cross the southern shore to get to the southeast, also beyond the island. We had to see the temple of Wat Phanan Choeng , which was beautiful but unfortunately can not compete with the above described. Perhaps I have this opinion because in Ayutthai I expected great preserved ruins and in this temple everything looked very new. Still, the temple of Wat Phanan Choeng is one of the oldest in Ayutthai and one of the most active religious objects. Sam 19m Buddha for which the entire temple was built comes from 1324, although there is no time burden. Around there are many other religious monuments and not just the Buddha. There are also tigers and other animals and elephant blows set in gold and standing in front of the altar of Buddha. So far, I have never seen such a crowd of people here. You have to push forward without resistance to see something. An interesting element is a banana tree with crumpled banknotes and the fact that for 500 bhat you can put your own Buddha on the wall. Outside there is a Chinese chapel with spectacular dragons and birds. In addition, I would recommend shopping and river view.
Then we went to my opinion, a true phenomenon of antique architecture, which I consider to be the best in all of Thailand and which is second to none. This is a breathtaking temple complex Wat Yai Chai Mongkon .The main chedi was built in 1592 in honor of King Nareusan’s victory over the Burmese, but the temple was already opened in 1357. Unfortunately, like all the temples in Ayutthai, it was also robbed and partially destroyed by Burma in 1767, but still, against the background of others, it is well preserved. Right behind the main entrance is a small “lying” Buddha, who is all that remains of the chapel (wiharn) in which he once lived. Then I crossed the garden with tall palms until I reached the main chedi of a massive bell. Around him there are several huge monuments of Buddha and a whole row of smaller ones, arranged on a square square, surrounding the great chedi. It looks very impressive as each of them is wrapped in orange material and there are also many other smaller chedi and prang (carved towers). At the back there is also a garden and another huge, white Buddha. The great advantage here is that you can climb almost to the top of the huge chedi from where there is a very good view of the entire temple and Ayutthaya. Still, it was my greatest pleasure to walk around the main pagoda and take pictures of the rows of Buddha statues. I think it’s a very special place and there were not even crowds that day. Wat Yai Chai Mongkon Temple is one of the oldest in Ayutthai and one of the most beautiful. The mood of this place is also enhanced by huge Buddha statues embedded on the slopes of the main pagoda, while the palm trees and hot Thai climate complement this experience.
Then we passed by Wat Sam Plum or Chedi bell-shaped at the corner of Rojana Street. It is wrapped in orange material and the date of its construction is not fully explained, although after the shape it can be stated that it comes from the middle of the Ayutthai period. There is no way to notice it, and I think it is a nice town decoration.
Eventually we reached the last place of interest that day. It was a nice and not forced concentration of the Elephant Village . Here is also the ruins of a huge pagoda with a broken Buddha statue, but we treated this place as a rest from the tour. We sat on the river with a bag of fruit and watched the elephants. Then tired we went back to the hotel.
Our last day in Ayutthai was peaceful. We got up later and then went to the big green area between the ruins of the temples. I took pictures of irregularly built pagodas and passed through numerous bridges over a lazy pond. It was a day of rest from the sightseeing and peaceful exploration of ancient Ayutthai.Even so, once again we saw the best temples in the area and the nearby pond with turtles, although this time we did not feel like working on the job. It was already a grudge.
Ayutthaya warmly recommends and strongly recommends day trips from Bangkok. Ayutthaya requires a few days of free exploration.
Transportation to Sukhothai
Good bus service 5h. Transportation from the hotel to the train station cost 100 bhat.
(Description of the accommodation and the charms of the flood)
When we reached Sukhothai, the whole city was flooded as the river pours out regularly every year. We stayed in a nice room with bamboo walls for only 200 bhat a night and the hotel itself was also very nice.Flood was a very good opportunity to see how people could handle such conditions. In Europe, the media has already announced the state of disaster but here the water stood only at 1m and people used the charms of the flood. Children sailed on boats and threw themselves into the water while adults were doing laundry, washing cars and fishing. They all looked very happy that they flooded. The neighborhood of New Sukhothai was also a very good food base. For rice with vegetables and chicken I paid 40 bhat a small pancakes with chocolate only 6 bhat. Very cheap and very good. We spent three nights here and from there we also traveled 12km to the local bus to Old Sukhothai to admire the temples.
(A very accurate description of the Ancient Sukhothai and the most interesting objects)
The ancient Sukhothai was the first capital of ancient Thailand that existed between 1238 and 1438. I have come to the conclusion that Sukhothai is a small version of the temples of Angkor Wat. In my opinion such an assessment is exaggerated although I have seen many similarities. The ancient Sukhothai is smaller than the ruins in Ayutthai and lies in close proximity to each other. Besides Sukhothai is much smaller and in my opinion it is also in better condition. Because of the smallest details, it can be even more delightful than Ayutthaya (which is also great).
Sukhothai is a wonderful inspiration for ancient Thai artists. This is a display of magnificent temples, columns, religious statues, carved towers of bells and of course many of the most attractive Buddha statues. The whole is also integrated into beautiful nature. I think of huge trees and their protruding roots and a large body of water, which ended with a large Buddha statue.
A careful tour of Old Sukhothai took us all day and fortunately the best sights are within one resort, named Sukhothai Historical Park. Within the walls of the park, which were built in a significant geometrical way for Buddhism, there are very well preserved ruins of 21 objects. In addition to the walls of the historic park there are about 70 other objects within a radius of 5km, but I treat this only as a nice supplement. Tickets for seeing all the sights including the ruins outside of Sukhothai cost 350 bhat but if one wants to see only the historical Sukhothai Park, then he must say goodbye to 100 bhat. The best way to explore the park is to rent a bike from nearby stores for only 30 bhat for the whole day. I would like to remind you that the tour starts early in the morning as the last bus to New Sukhothai is leaving at 6 pm.
As far as concrete monuments are concerned, the best ones are:
King Ramkamhaeng Monument ; which is to the right after entering the main gate. I would not say that this was the best property but it is definitely not to be missed. In the vicinity there is a water area and richly planted vegetation.
Wat Mahatat ; is a huge temple complex, a typical example of the architecture of the ancient city of Sukhothai, with a wealth of bell-shaped stupas, broken columns and large Buddha statues. One of them is a 9m standing Buddha although I loved their big sitting faces under beautiful trees. Buddha’s stupas and monuments are scattered throughout the property and often also incorporated into the center, although one should pay particular attention to the square footage, consisting of three storeys. Wat Mahatat is home to many other smaller chedi and Buddhist chapels and sanctuaries.
Wat Si Sawai ; which, in my opinion, is reminiscent of the mini version of Angor Wat but with a series of broken pillars. This temple was built in a typical Khmer style, and the central point is the three high, Khmer-style carved rises on which there are small stone sculptures. This temple was at the beginning of its existence a Hindu temple but later changed its destiny to Buddhism.
Wat Sa Si ; was my favorite temple. It is set on an island and you can get to it on a wooden bridge. This temple is a classic example of ancient Sukhothai architecture. The central point is the high bell-tower stupa and the great sitting Buddha and two rows of pillars on its front. In addition, there are several other smaller stupas and metal statues of Buddha. Wat Sa Si is also recommended as a wonderful panoramic footage from the beginning of the pond. From a distance you can see a great stupa and a statue of Buddha, and with good light comes a good effect of the beauty of this building, reflecting on the mirror of water.
Ramkhamhaeng National Museum ; tells about the history and culture of Sukhothai. There are some of the first scripts in the Thai script. The museum is located in a white roofed building in the style of temples in Bangkok.
Wat Trapang Thong ; A temple near the museum with a characteristic, huge stupa.
Wat Trapang Ngoen ; A small but very pleasant and well preserved ruin of the temple. It consists of the main vihara and sitting Bydda. In addition, it is located in the ordinance hall, where two rows of pillars extend, and there are also monuments of standing Buddha on the wall.
Inside Sukhothai Historical Park there are many other interesting objects of lesser importance. I think it’s great fun to ride a bike here, and occasionally buy fruit from poor grandparents. The attention should also be paid to the magnificent trees, their boughs and roots and the water surrounding the temples covered with flowers.
When we left the park, we sat down for lunch under a roof of palm leaf and then fed the dogs. Outside the park we also saw some interesting temples and they were:
Wat Saphan Hin ; that is the ruin of the temple from which only high and massive, standing Buddha. First you had to climb up but the view of Buddha himself was impressive.
Wat Si Chum ; One of the most popular temples in Sukhothai. The attractive bunker-like building is one of the most beautiful and original Buddha statues. It is a great grieving Buddha with long fingers pointing downwards. This object is often photographed and seen on postcards.
Wat Chang Lom ; is a stupa surrounded by statues of 36 elephants. Some were broken but the effect itself is still very good, especially at sunset.
Sukhothai was a great historical experience and riding a bicycle between ancient ruins made me very happy.Other things not included in the guides include palm trees, exotic vegetation and sunsets over the huge stupas and monuments of the Buddha. All these attributes make up a beautiful whole.
(What to see, how to get there and detailed description of Si Satchanalai)
Si Satchanalai (just like Chaliang) near Sukhothai was once a branch of the ancient Sukhothai empire. Here are also many attractive sites, though I admit that Si Satchanali is less popular and more neglected. When we reached the main gate we rented bikes for 20 bhat each and drove through a small village to get to a long, hanging bridge. Just crossing it was an adventure in itself, because the rapids were many meters below us and the bridge was gliding all the time.
After crossing the bridge, the first temple appeared. It was a huge Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat . This is in my opinion the most glorious ruin of all, with well-preserved Khmer-style prangs and many well preserved monuments of Buddha. Two rows of broken pillars lead through the square to the sitting Buddha, and behind it there is a prang that can be entered. There are also a few other stupas and statues of Buddha standing on the premises. You can easily imagine the splendor of this place when there was another roof supported by pillars. There is also a long souvenir stand.
The other interesting building was a temple complex on the mountain, called Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng .After climbing the high stone stairs, we reached the summit, but unfortunately there was not much left.Among the trees and bushes extending to the surface of our boughs, our attention focused on the broken brick stupa and even the large and very well preserved sitting Buddha. I also counted on the nice views, but unfortunately the tall trees hid Si Satchanali. Of course, the weight of history and the statue of Buddha made me impress even after seeing 1000 others earlier, but in this temple, in my opinion the best was the adventure. I mean, climbing to the top in the heat, along the stone steps between the bushes, leading to the object of hundreds of years.
After going downstairs with a small baby and a short bike ride, we reached Wat Chang Lom , a large chedi surrounded by statues of Buddha and monuments of animals that were probably elephants. The object is a brick road with broken pillars. It was another nice facility!
There were also ruins of Wat Nang Phaya. The building consisted of a main staircase, which was accessible to stairs and many other ruins such as pillars and small brick buildings. I think that the biggest advantage of this facility was the very well preserved stupa and its very position among the trees. Wat Nang Phaya was surrounded by a moat filled with water and plants. This property is less known but exceptionally attractive.
At the end we also saw a row of stupas of different sizes arranged in one area called Wat Chedi Jet Thaew .The attention should be paid to some details such as, for example, small bas-reliefs of Buddha and carved ends of the towers. In other words, it was a repetition of other ruins and it was so huge that it could not be overlooked.
After the tour we went for a tasty Thai meal in the green and chose souvenirs, which I did not buy here. Si Satchanalai does not take much time and is a very good idea for spending a good day and making great fun. I would like to warmly welcome you !!!
To Sitchanalai you can get a bus from the station in Sukhothai (40 bhat) and the ride takes about half an hour.However, it is necessary to explain the driver to stop before entering the temples of the old city ( meuang kao ) and not in a new town, which generally no one is interested. The entrance costs 220 bhat but we paid only 100 bhat for us three, so it is worth the bargain. The last bus from the main road should be stopped at 4.30.
It was the end of my adventures in the Ancient Cities of Thailand – a region of magnificent sights and beautiful waterfalls.
Then we went further north and our next stop was Lampang Town (4h from Sukhothai). However, Lampang will be described in a new chapter titled “Northern Thailand”.
I recommend reading further about my adventures in Northern Thailand .